By Patrick Yost editor
There was a single topic of conversation this past week at every coffee club, lunchroom counter or other public gathering place. Who killed and beheaded Russell Dermond, 88, and where is his wife Shirley? And, Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills said during one of two press conferences he has held after the body was discovered, “Everybody’s a suspect but me.” If you don’t own a television set, computer or radio, you may not know that a friend of the Dermonds found Russell’s decapitated body in the garage of his Great Waters residence in Putnam County on Tuesday, May 6, by a friend who was concerned that the Dermonds had not attended a scheduled party in the exclusive, gated–community on Saturday night and that newspapers had begun piling up on the couple’s driveway.
Various media reports, including a comprehensive report published this week in the Greensboro Herald Journal newspaper, report that Dermond’s head has yet to be discovered, despite search efforts in the cove behind the couple’s house that turned up a Christmas tree and a sunken boat. According to Capt. Chris Bish, investigation division, Morgan County Sheriff’s Office, efforts to produce leads in the case have led, in part, to the production and placement of electronic billboards calling for help in finding the killer or killers and in locating Shirly Dermond, 87. Bish said Russell Dermond’s body was found in the garage of the house. Sills said in a press conference that nothing in the million–dollar house was disturbed, including items of value. Shirley’s cell phone and pocket book were both located in the house and, Sills said in a press conference, there was no sign of forced entry. The Demonds children, two sons living in Jacksonville, Fla., according to the Herald Journal, and a daughter from Asheville, N.C. have all come to the Great Waters residence and spoken with police.
A third son, Mark Dermond, was murdered in Atlanta in 2000 while allegedly attempting to purchase crack cocaine. The Herald Journal reported that Troy Major was tried and convicted of the murder on November 9, 2001 and sentenced to life in prison, where he remains. The Dermonds purchased the lot at Great Waters in 1994 and moved into the 3,250 sq. ft. house in 1999. Both were natives of New Jersey where Russell Dermond built a fast–food restaurant empire of more than 30 Wendy’s restaurants. More than 100 people attended a candle light vigil last Saturday in Greene County to show support for the couple’s family. Despite the gruesome killing, Putnam’s Sills said he thought the murder was a target–specific act. “I don’t think its a random incident,” he said.
“I think for whatever reason these people were singled out for this. They live in the most exclusive neighborhood, or one of the most exclusive neighborhoods, in this county… They’re on a cul-de-sac in a gated multimillion dollar resort community that we have no crime in.” WSB TV was reporting Tuesday morning that authorities were going to use an underwater robot to search for Shirley Dermond and the head of her husband. Earlier in the week investigators with the FBI were called to the scene to aid in the investigation.